Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
April 23, 2020


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Coronavirus related cyber scams continue to rise

We first reported on the news that coronavirus-related cyber scams were on the rise in early March, when the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau warned the public to be aware of scams and fraudulent emails relating to the outbreak. At that point, similar scams had reportedly already tricked the UK public out of £800,000. This figure has since risen to nearly £2 million, according to the UK’s Home Secretary. 

The Government has compiled a guide on the scams it is already aware of, and advice to avoid future ones, which you can find from the link below.


A number of the fraudulent scams targeted those desperate to purchase face masks, while others have included the sending of emails from fake ‘Centers for Disease Control’ accounts, claiming to be able to provide the victim with a list of infected people with their local area. The links targets are required to click on then take them to malicious websites.

How is CCTV helping to contain the coronavirus outbreak? 

The NFIB has advised consumers not to click on suspicious links or attachments, and not to respond to unsolicited messages asking for financial or personal details.

Since early March, cyber scams using the pandemic as a cover have only continued to rise – only yesterday the BBC’s Watchdog put together a special report on the issue. And, since the outbreak of the pandemic in the UK, the NCSC has said it took down more than 2,000 online coronavirus scams last month alone. These statistics included 471 fake online shops, which purported to be selling virus-related items such as masks and other forms of PPE.

“Criminals are seeking to exploit our greater use of emails, video conferencing and other technologies for their advantage,” said Minister for Security James Brokenshire. “It’s despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal.”

It’s not just an issue in the UK, either. The US Federal Trade Commission has confirmed recently that approximately $18 million has been lost to coronavirus-related scams since January, according to consumer reports. The reports state that consumers have highlighted over 23,000 fraud incidents so far. In addition, Reuters recently reported that when citizens in Italy started applying for coronavirus benefits, the country’s social security website was hit by computer hackers, forcing it to shut down.

Remote working securely 

The lockdown has, inevitably, forced billions of workers around the globe to work remotely, and the potential security risks of this have not been missed by hackers, Coronavirus-CyberScams2-20it seems. The growing demand for video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom has led to a number of privacy issues, with concerns surrounding end-to-end encryption and erroneous meeting entrants. While Zoom has since stated it is concentrating hard on increasing the levels of security of the platform, many may already have been affected. Indeed, the decision of the UK Cabinet to use Zoom whilst security concerns were still ongoing has reportedly infuriated many security services, with the lack of efficient end-to-end encryption highlighted as a key concern.

It’s an issue that is even more difficult to defend against than usual for security teams, who are having to operate remotely, like their colleagues, to ensure employees are working securely when not on company property. For those looking for support on areas to consider when improving the security of their company’s remote working practices, we’ve recently put together a couple of articles below to offer some advice:

Ilia Kolochenko, Founder & CEO of web security company ImmuniWeb, has offered his opinion on the news: “Coronavirus is a formidable and fairly unprecedented opportunity to trick panicking people amid the global havoc and mayhem. In light of the spiraling uncertainty and fake news, even experienced cyber security professionals may get scammed by a well-crafted phishing email allegedly coming from a national health authority and involving his or her family or workplace.

“The more emotions and personal matters the attackers leverage, the more successful their campaigns will likely be. The human factor remains the most burdensome to mitigate by technical means among the wide spectrum of organizational cyber risks, and the COVID-19 connection makes victims particularly susceptible to thoughtless actions.

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“Organisations should urgently consider implement and promulgate a clear, centralised and consistent internal process to communicate all the events and precautions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Corporate cyber security and security awareness should constitute an invaluable part of such communications, as cyber criminals are profiteering from obscurity and uncertainty.”

This advice would naturally extend to employees, so IT and security teams may need to communicate similar messages internally. There is more employer advice for coronavirus, here.

If you are concerned that you may have been a victim of fraud, you can report it to Action Fraud at any time of the day or night by using Action Fraud’s online reporting tool.

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